Choosing the Right Practice
Many recent law school graduates struggle with the decision about which area(s) of law to practice in. The choices are seemingly endless, from advertising to zoning, with hundreds of options between. Not to mention the decision between whether to take an associate position at an established firm, to start a firm, or to pursue a career in public service. Picking the right area of law requires that you know yourself, do your homework, and not be afraid to pursue your passion. Though it may not be difficult to align your skills, abilities, and passion with your legal practice, picking the right area of law is an important step in building a solid foundation for your legal career.
Know YourselfWhen deciding on an area of practice, it is important to know and consider your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. You should conduct a self-assessment to help you determine which practice areas may mesh best with your personality. Some areas of practice, and more specifically some specialized job roles, will demand certain attributes. For example, working as a tax attorney or an environmental law attorney will require you to read, grasp, understand, and write about complex legal issues, while areas like family law and entertainment law may require a more common sense and practical application of law. Additionally, you may have strengths that lend themselves well to a certain area of law, such as public speaking skills, which is important for litigation. Knowing your weaknesses is just as important. If, for example, you do not like public speaking, you should not be a litigation attorney and should pick an area of law that will not expose that weakness.
Your previous education and work experiences may also influence which practice area you choose. For example, a health care administration degree may lend itself to a career as general counsel for a hospital or pharmaceutical company; a business degree may help you to better understand areas of law dealing with corporations; a science background, such as biology, may be useful in a career in animal law or environmental law; and a degree in engineering would be useful for a career in patents and trademarks.
Do The WorkYou need to do your homework before choosing your career, applying for jobs, and especially before accepting a job. If you do not know what you want to do, try and get exposure in the various areas of practice that interest you be it by way of clerkship, internship, or just days spent shadowing an attorney. Also, make sure you stay abreast of what is going on in the legal world, keeping up with current events and affairs that might influence the areas of practice you are interested in. Likewise, consideration as to which practices are expected to see growth and recession in the future should be deciding factors in the final decision process.
New attorneys should always make every effort to network and speak to seasoned attorneys currently working in areas of interest. This connection will allow a real world glimpse into how life is in that practice area or industry, and can provide you with invaluable legal career advice. Asking targeted questions such as how they selected their practice and what they enjoy most about the nature of their work can help persuade your final decision.
Follow Your PassionsIt can be difficult to find passion in law. That said, when selecting your area of practice, it is helpful if you identify areas that you feel strongly about or areas in which you have a personal interest. With mounting student loans, considering passion in choosing a career may seem counterintuitive, but it will drastically increase your changes for long-term success. Passion may not always be fun and exciting, but is oftentimes practical, where the activities you enjoy intersect with your skills and abilities, allowing you to provide a service someone else needs. Allow your passion and skills help guide your career path.
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